Thought Catalog: Hi all. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourselves? Secondly, in a few sentences can you sum up your views on Donald Trump?
Shaun Scott: I’m a Seattle-based writer and filmmaker. I wrote a book for Thought Catalog in 2015 called Something Better: Millennials and Late Capitalism at the Movies. I’m currently working on a book called Millennials and the Moments that Made US: A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1984-present. I think Donald Trump is a savvy marketer who is not above using racist demagoguery to exacerbate class divisions and bolster his (non-existent) credentials to be President of the United States.
Jeremy Ely: I live in Los Angeles and like to write short stories and have political conversations. I don’t really align to the left or to the right, for example, I think Bernie Sanders is awesome, but I also think Donald Trump presents great ideas and that he’d be a great leader for the country. I think the tremendous hatred I see toward him is a little over the top, and his ideas are not as extreme as we make them out to be.
TC: Trump has been called a racist, sexist, and a whole host of other “ists.” Do you believe this is true, and why or why not?
JE: I don’t find the terms “racist,” or “sexist,” that powerful anymore, because of how loosely people in our generation will toss these labels on things they don’t like. Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, we saw awful racism in this country. Before women could vote, we saw genuine sexism. Now we have a black president and incredible gender equality. Of course, it is not 100% equal, because men are not women, and women are not men. There will never be a pure absolute lack of racism, and an absolute lack of gender inequality. The things Trump says, meanwhile, are not actually racist. They’re just opinions that are not considered politically correct because of the hypersensitive age we live in.
SS: Donald Trump’s credentials as a racist, a classist, and a xenophobe extend far beyond what he says; we should also pay attention to his actions. He was sued by no less than the Department of Justice for discriminatory practices in real estate. His words have led directly to violence against immigrants and people of color. He has argued that the wages of members of the middle class are “too high.” As loud as he is, his actions actually speak louder than his words.
TC: What, in your own words, does it mean to support Donald Trump, given his positioning by different groups as different things? And as one of you is pro-Trump and the other is anti-Trump, what questions do you have of each other?
SS: Jeremy will have to answer how he feels about supporting a candidate who thinks his wages are too high, and who makes inflammatory statements about immigrants in public while hiring them in private.
JE: I think it’s refreshing to have a presidential candidate who fearlessly states his beliefs, and doesn’t buy into the generic “mumbo jumbo” that most politicians preach. Again, I don’t think his comments against illegal immigrants classify as racist. Part of the reason American Health Care is such a mess, for example, is because so many people are pouring into this country and it’s difficult to classify who is a citizen. And, even if he were racist, he employs thousands of them, and gives them a living, and that’s very valuable.
SS: Jeremy, what is your evidence for the claim that “health care is a mess” because of immigrants? Concrete data points in the exact opposite direction of what you say; if it weren’t for the labor of immigrant communities, many in this country would go without care. And, once and for all, fearlessly stating one’s belief does not, in and of itself, make one an eligible candidate to be president; if that were the case, we could elect Beavis or Butthead.
JE: European countries provide health care to all. I think people of all classes should be able to receive health care to keep living; we need to become like Europe. Poor people facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in health bills is not just, or American – all people have the right to a doctor. But if thousands of undocumented people are coming in to a country per day, it’ll be impossible to institute that policy because who is an American? “The Wall” would solve that.
SS: If you want American healthcare to resemble European welfare states, I believe you should be backing Bernie Sanders. The “thousands of undocumented people” you talk about are being employed by the candidate you support; he does not have an interest in actually keeping them out, so you shouldn’t either. I agree with what you say about access to healthcare being a universal right.
TC: Moving away from immigration, how do you think Trump does on the world stage? How do you think the international community perceives Trump, and how would they perceive the United States were he to be elected? Would America be viewed as courageous or crazy, and does it matter?
JE: Firstly, I think it does not matter very much. In life at any level, I think it’s valuable to state your beliefs and not be overly concerned with other peoples’ perceptions of them. Not to compare Trump to either guy, but Galileo was hated, and Hitler was loved. I’m sure people would think he’s crazy, as many do in America, but that’s irrelevant because I think he’s right: someone needs to be courageous in the face of growing Islamic terrorism and anti-Americanism.
SS: We already know the answer to this question. Several world leaders have denounced Donald Trump, including the Prime Minister of Britain. A petition to ban Trump from traveling to England garnered 600,000 signatures. Recently, a Russian photojournalist traveling in Iowa during the caucus said that Trump reminds him of the megalomania of Putin, who is not looked on favorably in the global community. On top of that, several Pentagon staffers (and other government officials) have said they will retire if Trump wins. Trump cannot “make America great again” if his election is seen as a national embarrassment. He can’t “be courageous in the face of Islamic terrorism” if he’s been denounced by Benjamin Netanyahu.
JE: European countries not supporting our president aren’t going to have a real effect, I don’t think. They hardly do anything for us anyway. If England wants to ban him, that’s not our problem, and let’s be cognizant of how Putin, the leader of another superpower, actually endorsed him, a potential American leader, which hasn’t happened for decades. So I think he can get along with leaders when it matters. Trump has repeatedly said that he will make the military a priority: “I will make our military so strong, we’ll never have to use it.” I think that’s a good state of mind.
TC: It’s a pretty big statement to say, “[European countries] do hardly anything for us anyway.” Economic partnerships, political agreements, and support from the international community is important in today’s increasingly globalized world, as they always have been since the emergence of the nation-state. With that said, would the election of Trump see a new age of isolationism in the United States? And with trying to fight terrorism, which is a global problem, how does this affect American national security?
SS: Here’s the thing about national security interests; there are no do-overs. Trump is used to filing for bankruptcy when a business venture goes under. Businesses he’s owned have done it four times. But four similar errors in judgment will result in the loss of lives. That’s not a risk we can afford to take.
JE: As a man who has amassed billions of dollars of wealth working with people, I have confidence that the guy knows how to get along with people when it matters. By “poor judgment” – pissing off the British leader, or Megyn Kelly, when he’s just a candidate – isn’t going to result in lost lives. Out of the many businesses he’s launched, it’s only natural that some of them fail. Let’s keep in mind that unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump spoke out against the war in Iraq in 2004, which has proven to be a disaster and a tragic loss of American and Iraqi lives and money.
SS: Actually, his lapses in judgment have resulted in violence. There was a beating of a Hispanic man in Boston that was tied to his rhetoric. The claim that he will “get along with people when it matters” implies that he has not done so thus far. If it “does not matter” during his bid to be president, it will never matter. He’s unfit to lead.
JE: I think his judgment internationally trumps other candidates. In fighting ISIS, for example, Trump has repeatedly called for “taking the oil.” That oil now funds ISIS. Other leaders don’t have the courage to pitch an idea like this.
SS: Even a broken clock is right two times a day.
TC: Wrapping this up, all signs point to the likelihood that Trump will not become the next president of the United States. But what, if anything, does it say about the country in 2016, that Trump has managed to galvanize the support he has?
JE: I hope people focus less on the occasional crazy things he says, and keep in mind his rational ideas. He has called for reducing taxes for the lower and middle class, while also taxing people like himself more. I also respect his plan to help the homeless – American homelessness is shameful. I think the support he’s got speaks amazingly well to the idea that people will resonate with a person who speaks their language. I think it’s his unique, conversational, often humorous tone in speeches is what gets people to truly support him.
SS: All of Trump’s (few) progressive ideas are available in other candidates. These other candidates do not come with the added baggage of hate speech that further divides the country and alienates world leaders. Trump represents the cultural triumph of reality television; fortunately, he will not be representing the country as an elected official.